University students
University students Brett Wortman

Christopher Pyne defends higher education changes

REGIONAL and rural Australia has a friend in their corner, Education Minister Christopher Pyne insisted today saying that universities in those areas had the most to gain from the government's proposed changes to higher education.

Minister Pyne introduced the legislation, which includes the deregulation of university fees, changes to interest rate payments of student loans and a drop in course subsidies, in Parliament adding it was a "good deal for students".

Earlier the Minister talked up the reforms on ABC radio saying concern surrounding regional and rural universities was unwarranted as they had most to gain especially from demand-driven courses like sub-bachelors and diplomas.

"These universities are the biggest winners in these reforms," he said.

"Regional universities run a lot of pathways programs that are vital for low socio-economic and disadvantaged young people and mature-aged students to get into university. We are expanding the demand system for those courses and that will be a big advantage to rural and regional universities.

"They will also be able to package up their Commonwealth scholarships to attract more students. They can compete on price, a great standard of living and can help students with relocation costs and living expenses."

Interestingly, Mr Pyne's views seem a world apart from those of the Regional Universities Network who have opposed the reforms saying it would disadvantage universities in the bush.

The Network's executive director Caroline Perkins said that it was unlikely that there was "no history in Australia of students from metropolitan areas going in large numbers to regional Australia to study".

"University fees are one thing," she said, "but there is also the added expense of leaving home, travelling and accommodation. I would be very surprised if we suddenly see huge increases in students at regional universities."